7th annual Pacific Slope "Mumbleypeg" Event.
We're planning something special for Sep 29 - Oct 1st, 2016 -- Placed Ed Symposium: Geoliteracy and Place-Conscious Learning for Grade 4-12 Educators.
This symposium will explore the challenges of bringing place-minded and geographically relevant curriculum into the classroom, and bringing the classroom out into the physical and cultural landscape. Our intended audience includes Social Studies educators, teachers who love field trips, and others who want to bring an aspect of Place into their Fine Arts, Humanities, Science, English/Language Arts, or Applied Skills teaching practice.
Details to follow in January 2016, including the launch of the symposium website.
For our Friday session, the two areas of focus were research/writing skills and the new BC Social Studies curriculum. On the topic of research/writing skills, we wondered about how much do we teach, why students needs this, and how do we teach it? We used the essay writing guide from http://historyskills.jimdo.com/ to centre our discussion and, if nothing else, this probably convinced more or us to revive attempts to teach formal writing for research essays in our classes, not just as prep for the SS11 exam (which we agree required a different "formula" for success), but as a way to organize and drive thinking (primary benefit) as well as to demonstrate learning (secondary benefit).
Our other endeavour was to unpack the new curriculum. A few of us had not had a good look at it yet, while others had been been mucking about in the new waters for some time. We had copies of the K-9 Social Studies Curriculum, the Draft SS10 and proposed Gr. 11/12 electives. We used the SS9 curriculum to centre our discussion, and were impressed by two things: the sheer volume of historical content that could be attached to the course the way it is framed (1750-1919), and the related challenge of how to approach the course thematically or from a framework other than that of the familiar sequential survey course -- the history teacher's skilled tack over a long distance with a strong wind aft and only occasional forays ashore. The content bookends effectively place most of the old SS9, all of the old SS10 and some of the old SS11 into one course. Rather than simply drop a pile of topics and rebuild a survey course, the new SS9 begs for a new framework. We didn't exactly nail one down (not that the six of us would teach the course in the same way), but we did see how the four "Big Ideas" (basically: ideology, environment, power, identity) could act as new curriculum organizers. We also speculated on the use of some kind of matrix for unit design where the content and competencies would form the axes. While this appeals as some kind of curriculum checklist, in reality it is hard to draw out a single skill from one historical case study or vice versa. For example, do bits and pieces of WWI pop up throughout the course as they help elicit a skill or competency or follow a theme, or does it make more sense to teach WWI in one go and dogpile the associated skills? Part of what made our discussion interesting was to wonder if we have become history teachers instead of socials teachers, and if this was a problem or even a real thing. It is quite possible to approach Social Studies through a different lens, a geographic one, for example, and maybe the new curriculum makes it easier for us to broaden our skillsets as teachers. We noticed that the SS9 course, and perhaps others, was laid out to make project-based learning and cross-curricular inquiry a more natural fit. The lack of provincial exams and paring down of learning outcomes -- tempered somewhat by the massive amount of Canadian history that takes place between the start and end dates -- really does open the door to a different approach.
We agreed to all take a stab at throwing together a new SS9 outline and see what happens next. As is often the case at our Pro-D sessions, we left with the an uneasy feeling like we had generated more questions than answers, a result of having our ideas challenged by others, especially the easy ideas. We also left with that warm feeling that we were lucky to be doing what we were doing -- working with students, teaching in a field that continually offers us change and interest, and having colleagues to keep us sharp and connected.
Once the traditional knife-tossing game and steak dinner are out of the way, we have an ambitious agenda.
This year we will explore design aesthetics for courses under the new curriculum. What elements of design should guide us as we put the new BC Social Studies curriculum through its paces? What kind of frameworks can we use to make sense of the swirling mass of competencies, skills, and content? Is it that easy to pick and choose from among the (vast) content areas (now even vaster with the curriculum re-org) in order to address competence, or is SS more like Math in that there is some core content that is necessary for students to encounter in sequence? Can we map this out using the "juggernaut" of the new SS9 as a test case? What's the difference between history and SS? What if we used a geographic framework to understand our role as SS teachers, or sociological, philosophical, ecological, anthropological for that matter? What does the new focus on Aboriginal content actually mean when it comes to course design? How do we broach the subject of historical revisionism as we look to a post-colonial curriculum and pedagogy?
When that whole business devolves into a cage match, we have a practical topic to go to -- an evaluation of the teaching resources posted at http://historyskills.jimdo.com/ including a document on written essays.
- lit review and shared experience with place-based learning, activities, rationale
- course contexts, pedagogy, and methodology
- case studies involving field trips: Fort St. James, Barkerville, Fort George Park
Every year in the early Fall, more or less (since More With Less), we’ve descended on the SD13 Retreat Centre at Purden Lake for an evening and day of great conversation, fare, and professional learning. While knife-throwing games and revelry by the fire or in the water are optional, we do get down to some stirring conversation and professional learning that has immediate reverberation in our classrooms.
This year’s theme is "Survivor." We will see a History 12 role-play simulation in action ("Soviet Survivor") and design the framework for a new Social Studies 11 simulation involving global poverty and development. We have often found role-plays/simulations to be a great short-cut towards enthusiastic student engagement with learning outcomes... no surprise really; students make authentic connections when their identities are in focus.
At our Professional Development sessions we use a "critical friends" approach, also know as the Socratic Fire Circle, to prod each others' thinking. We also spend some time checking in on our various teaching practices.
Thursday evening 5:00-10:00 pm and Friday 9:00am-2:00 pm. Sign up at https://pdreg.sd57.bc.ca.
Here is a PD model that informs the way we have chosen to spend out time on PD days:
Professional Development (PD) has changed in the last 15 years. Before pervasive email, a comprehensive internet, and widespread social media, PD happened in trickles throughout the year and with singular emphasis on designated days. These PD days were one of the few times when teachers “received” PD in the form of a workshop, presentation, or group conversation. They tended to be “high-stakes” in the sense that there were few other formal opportunities for teachers to orient themselves to the new ideas that circulated in the education world. Now, for better or worse, we are saturated in educational ideas, competing paradigms, “must-read” professional articles, layers of jargon (each one “scaffolding” the next) and cures for what ails us in education — professional learning materials, ideas, and networks are available 24/7
Much of the buzz has been facilitated by technology and the mobile devices that few of us are far from. A brief foray into educational hashtags on Twitter reveals a river of PD that teachers can draw from sparingly or jump in with both feet. Thousands of BC educators contribute daily; it is hard not to be humbled by the sheer volume of earnest inquiry. In many of our schools we have built in collaborative time or similar structures and release grants to continue the learning that used to take place in hallways been class. The last few years has also seen the rise of EdCamps, Open Space, and Unconferencing — all of which are recognition that teachers want to compare notes and challenge or support each other far more than they want to be passive recipients of expert conclusions, no matter how brilliant. These trends also speak to the power of informal learning. There is also growing reluctance to spend our PD time alone — we get enough isolation from adults in our daily teaching, and social media leaves us craving something more embodied.
As we adjust to the ubiquitous nature of PD, it becomes more important that official PD days offer these opportunities to unpack or take stock of recent learning, to mull over and reflect on what this means for coming months, and to fuse or synthesize the ideas in the room into something useful or inspirational. For those whom professional learning is a life-long habit, particularly the ones who have made the digital PD leap and are rarely unconnected from other educators, there is an awareness that formal PD time isn’t about taking in new information or having PD “done to you.” Whether our five PD days each school year are spent as individual teacher inquiry or a co-creative process among colleagues, the customs are undergoing a significant shift and our administrative leaders, our teacher leaders and associations, need to change the way we frame, organize, and seek accountability for out PD time. PD days are the teachers’ assessment time for the professional learning that happens all year — a chance to unpack, to mull, and to fuse.
The Pacific Slope
We're a consortium of B.C. educators working on critical thinking projects and public education advocacy. We provide thoughtful, powerful educational resources and services, conference keynotes, workshop presentations, and program evaluation.